May 30, 2003


The ghost of France’s first Socialist president, François Mitterrand, has come back to haunt France’s biggest postwar sleaze trial – in the form of an extraordinary tale involving his golfing partner, a luxury chateau on the outskirts of Paris, and the sum of £2.6m.

A total of 37 defendants are on trial in Paris over claims that £120m was siphoned from the accounts of the oil giant Elf during the late 1980s and early 1990s, much of it allegedly being paid out in illegal business commissions to various African leaders and their families, and to political parties.

The trial is, in reality, that of a whole system of state-sponsored corruption that flourished in France for decades: presidents and ministers regarded the country’s numerous state-owned multinationals not just as tools of foreign policy, but as a convenient source of cash to keep friends happy and foes quiet.

Hmm. Golfing partner, eh? I wonder if the back nine is playable. . . . Nah, sadly it’s nothing that amusing. Just your usual socialist oil-money-for-chateau scandal.

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